M&S to save with online database

Marks & Spencer is to bolster its rapidly expanding food business with an online database to manage new product development in...

Marks & Spencer is to bolster its rapidly expanding food business with an online database to manage new product development in its food division. The retailer expects to achieve full return on investment within a year.

The company aims to improve workflow, reduce product time to market and support collaboration in the product development process. "This is a significant priority at M&S - it is one of the major initiatives to grow the business for foods," said Thomas Lee-Warren, programme manager at Foods IT.

Marks & Spencer replaces 25% of its food products each year, with a similar figure being modified and repackaged. Currently, information relating to this process is mostly paper-based.

"There is no notion of a central source of information," said Lee-Warren. Staff often have to track down other colleagues to access data which might not be up to date. Improving the provision of information to M&S staff, its suppliers and customers is a key driver.

M&S will pilot the Food Innovation and Database system later this month in its bakery and ready meals departments. A further trial will follow in the summer and an "enhanced" version will be fully deployed in the first quarter of 2004.

"Speeding up the new product development process will have a significant impact on the business," said Lee-Warren, who anticipates achieving full return on investment in less than a year.

The M&S system will be integrated with other food systems to create a single point of entry for new product information.

Supplier QSA is looking to migrate the M&S database system to a .net platform but until then it will run on Windows Server 2000, Windows 2002 Biztalk server and externally hosted web servers. XML will be used for data transfer.

IT drives M&S product development   

What M&S is doing 
Marks & Spencer is to implement an internet-based system and database for electronically managing new product development    

 The project will open up product information to staff, suppliers and customers  

Trials begin in April, with full deployment planned for the first quarter of 2004. 

Full return on investment within one year 

Improved workflow 

Reduced time to market for new products 

A central source of new product information 

Improved collaboration on product development across the business.

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